Symbol of martyrdom, ascension, creation, destruction
The Catherine’s Wheel is a symbol named after St. Catherine who was a saint and martyr from the 4th century. It is a wheel with curved knife blades on the outer rim.
St. Catherine was a noted scholar and princess in the 4th century. St. Catherine was the daughter of the governor of Egyptian Alexandria, Constus. When she was 14 she had a vision of Mary and Jesus as a child and became a Christian and converted over one thousand people to Christianity. Maxentius the Roman Emperor at the time who was considered bloodthirsty and cruel called St. Catherine to meet with him. St. Catherine told him he should not be so cruel. Maxentius called his scholars who debated with Catherine. St. Catherine won the debate and some of the scholars converted on the spot. Those scholars were immediately put to death by Maxentius and St. Catherine was thrown into a cell and tortured. Anyone who came to visit her was instantly converted to Christianity including Maxentius’ wife. St. Catherine came out of the cell seemingly unscathed and Maxentius order her to be put to death by a spiked wheel. St. Catherine touched the wheel and it shattered. Maxentius then proposed marriage and St. Catherine rebuked him. Maxentius then ordered her to be beheaded. All of this happened when St. Catherine was 18.
Another St. Catherine’s wheel is a firework that spirals around when lit. It produces colored flames and sparks in a circular motion. This is thought to symbolize the ascension into heaven and the circular steps that are taken to get there. The fire symbolizes creation and destruction.
The image of the St. Catherine’s wheel was depicted on pilgrim’s badges in France in the 1400s. Pilgrim’s badges were worn by people on a pilgrimage. Today at St. Catherine’s College in Oxford England, there are four St. Catherine’s wheels depicted on the college’s shield. In the 1990s there was a British alternative rock band with the name Catherine’s Wheel. A circular spoked window is called Catherine’s Wheel. There were different songs, albums, and movies titled Catherine’s Wheel and there is a stitch in crochet called Catherine’s wheel which will produce a pinwheel pattern.
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